HAPPINESS DIET: Energize Your Brain & Body


[semester equivalent = 4.00 credits]



Brenda McKinney



While many books have examined the ways in which food impacts our physical health, The Happiness Diet, is the first one to clearly show a possible link between how we eat and how we feel. What if you discovered that the best place to find happiness was at the end of your fork? What if you discovered that as your waistline expands, your brain declines? What if you learned that mood foods in this plan include bacon, beef and eggs, foods you have been avoiding? Wouldn't you want to sign up today and explore the new research? Emerging data from the rapidly changing fields of neuroscience and nutrition show "that by changing what you eat, you can improve your mental and emotional well-being; you can even make your brain grow." 
During this course of study you will learn how the foods you eat can keep you well. You will also learn more about how small changes have stripped the American diet of nutrients. This course is appropriate for all K-12 teachers, coaches, and parents. Your transformation will start on day one with practical advice, recipes, and feel good foods. Join me for this journey. You will spread your happiness to others. Appropriate for all educators.

LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

  1. Understood why our food is making us unhealthy AND unhappy, and can lead to illnesses including depression and diabetes.
  2. Developed a plan to break old habits, conquer procrastination, manage stress, and focus healthy lifestyle goals.
  3. Learned which foods create good moods; the essential elements of happiness.
  4. Explored the myths about foods that, according to this research, have plagued the American public.
  5. Identified the top reasons to avoid supplements and the research behind this opinion.
  6. Learned the simple changes that make a big difference with food lists, shopping tips, and brain-building recipes.
  7. Learned which foods are simply good for the brain and be able to articulate why.

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit. The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit.

The use of artificial intelligence is not permitted. Assignment responses found to be generated by AI will not be accepted.

Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participants their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, or Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, and Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering, determine with your district personnel, department head, or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



The Happiness Diet. A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body, by Graham, Tyler and Drew Ramsey, MD.

None. All reading is online.


The Happiness Diet. A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body, by Graham, Tyler and Drew Ramsey, MD. Approximately $15 at



Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. 
Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 

Assignment #1: Introduction.

For those participating in Group Collaboration, you must read and follow the instructions outlined in the Group Collaboration Guidelines. Click on the link for Guidelines.

  • Assignment #1, each participant must complete this assignment independently.
  • There should be a minimum of (4) four group meetings during which the course content is discussed. 
  • Teleconferences or live meetings are acceptable. A good videoconference option is Zoom (
  • Each participant must attend at least 75% of the group meetings (a minimum of 3 of 4 meetings).

You must complete your introduction before moving on to other assignments.

  • ​In a 250-500 word introduction describe your current professional situation, some low and high points in your teaching career and say why you chose this course as it relates to health and wellness. 
  • What immediate changes would you like to see happen in your own life as a result of this course?

Assignment #2: Your Brain On Food.

  • Read Chapter One, pages 3-14 to be able to define happiness while considering the brain body connection.
  • What recent studies exemplify the deterioration of the American diet? Go to You Tube and watch Dr. Drew Ramsey on best foods for mental health.
  • What did you learn about the MAD (Modern American Diet) diet that concern you and your nutritional plan?
  • What is the link between neurotransmitters and food? How does the “Three Point Plan for Happiness” relate to brain function? 
  • In The Top 100 section which ones will have the most profound effect on your personal idea of healthy eating?

    In a 500+ word response discuss your what you learned about the American diet and what was new research for you. 

Assignment #3: COURSE FORUM.  A History of the American Diet.

  • Read Chapter Two, pages 15-32 and be able to explain how the MAD diet took its hold on American culture and eating. What part had the most profound meaning for you?
  • Why is sugar such a threat to eating healthy and how did this increase take place?
  • Go to What Happens if You Don't Eat Sugar, from dietician, Tamara Duker, to learn what happens to yur brain when you don't eat sugar.
  • Watch the following link to learn about the effects of soda on your body.
  • Watch the video on drinking soda
  • What is your response to the research on fats, cholesterol, and heart disease, which may be in direct opposition to your previous learning? What do you think about this research?
  • After reading this chapter, what are the alarming implications for the accepted American diet? What are the “must-dos” for your own life, and are there any implications you can share with kids in your classroom? 
  • The Top 100 reasons to avoid processed foods are scattered throughout each chapter. Of the sixteen listed in this section, which ones will have the most profound effect on your personal idea of healthy eating?
  • In addition to your submission of the above assignment, read 4-6 postings from other teachers on this assignment (if any are present) and respond to at least ONE.

    In a 500+ word response, discuss your new understanding of how the American public has been misled and why there is so much confusion surrounding healthy foods and what we should be eating. Do you agree or disagree with the research?

Assignment #4: Toxins In Our Food Supply.

  • Read 33-55 and be able to explain the common culprits that are tanking our moods and ruining our health. 
  • What did you learn about “carbage,” sugar, and lack of nutrients? How are we addicted to this cycle?
  • Watch the You Tube video to learn about the rats and sugar at Princeton University.
  • What is your opinion the new term “carbage” and its connection to weight and happiness in America and ? Do you believe the connection between carbage and obesity is a plausable explanation? Explain.
  • What is the paradox of the quick sugar fix? 
  • Watch the video about French fries and your health.
  • What happens to French fries as they are stored for several months. Now, relate the information about how French fries can actually shrink your brain?
  • Why are Omega-3’s and Omega 6’s so critical to a healthy diet? 
  • View the video link What is Omega 9?
  • After reading how meat is made, what is the take on eating a cheeseburger? Defend its nutritional value.
  • Discuss the difficulty of getting proper nutrition from vegetables?
  • Check out food synergy.  What do you think of this idea of combining foods for maximum effect?
  • The Top 100 reasons to avoid processed foods scattered throughout each chapter. Of the 8 listed in this section, which ones will have the most profound effect on your personal idea of healthy eating?
In a 500+ word response address your own eating habits and what you are learning about the deterioration of the American Diet? Do you feel hopeful or discouraged at this point in the learning? What was the critical takeaway for you.

Assignment #5: Essential Elements

  • Read pages 56-80 the Essential Elements of Happiness. How can you make life changes based on the 10 Essential Elements? What examples in this section would be helpful for you to share with students and why? 
  • Make a list of “must-have” foods from this section to prepare for your healthy eating plan. What are the “must have” ideas for you from this section. Were you aware of the vitamin and mineral deficiences in our wellness plans?
  • Watch the video from Dr. Drew Ramsey to learn about the importance of an annual physical for brain health. How do you connect this information with the Essential Elements of Happiness?
  • Watch Dr. Drew Ramsey explain about honey and bees; the amazing brain food! How can this fit into your nutritional plan?
  • The Top 100 reasons to avoid processed foods throughout each chapter. Of the 9 listed in this section, which ones will have the most profound effect on your personal idea of healthy eating?
In a 250+ word response discuss the overall effects in our nutrition of the lack of the essential elements. Now that you have begun your healthy eating "food plan", you will want to continue through all of the four food groups.

Assignment #6: Focus Foods

  • Read pages 83-97 to learn about the top five focus foods. Check out the idea that you can eat eggs, beef and milk.  Does this contradict what you have previously learned.
  • Watch Dr. Drew’s video clip on the value of grain fed beef. Has this changed your thinking? Explain why eating meat is good for the brain and why we have been misled?
  • Discuss the brain sharpening foods. Why are they so critical for overall health and mood control? What would be the critical “take-away” information for happiness/mood in your own life? 
  • Check out Dr. Amen and his top seven foods at in order to gain a different persepctive. How does this compare with the focus list you have studied in happiness?
  • The Top 100 reasons to avoid processed foods scattered throughout each chapter. Of the 11 listed in this section, which ones will have the most profound effect on your personal idea of healthy eating?
In a 250+ word response discuss the focus foods, what was new learning for you, how you will adjust your eating plan, and if you were surprised at any of the foods in this section.

Assignment #7: Energy Foods

  • Read pages 98-109 about the links between foods for energy and exercise.
  • Check out this amazing video from Dr. Ratey on the benefits of exercise .
  • What a surprise to learn that lettuce is an energy food.  Explain why mesclun is so critical to a healthy diet. 
  • What can chocolate and coffee do for a healthy diet and how do they keep you happy? 
  • What nutritional bonus do we get from eating walnuts? 
  • The surprise of this chapter is reading that potatoes and beans are important energy foods. Explain misinformation that has been spread about each of these foods.
  • Check out the Energy Boosting Foods. What can you do to consistently incorporate these foods into your diet plan? 
  • The Top 100 reasons to avoid processed foods scattered throughout each chapter. Of the nine listed in this section, which ones will have the most profound effect on your personal idea of healthy eating?
In a 250+ word response discuss these amazing energy foods, what surprised you, foods that you can't live without, and those that you want to add to your eating plan.

Assignment #8: COURSE FORUM. Mood Foods

  • Read pages 110-121 to learn about foods that will help balance blood sugar and keep you from cravings.
  • Check out each Mood Boosting Foods. What was new information for you?
  • View the video by Dr. Drew Ramsey on Brain Food: I Say Tomato.
  • Take a look at the You Tube video by Dr. Drew Ramsey on chili peppers and nutritional value. Brain Food: Red Hot Chili Peppers, a Recipe for Happiness. What was new information for you?
  • How many of these BRAIN foods will you be able to incorporate into your daily diet? What would be the critical “take-away” information for happiness/mood in your own life and healthy eating plan.
  • The Top 100 reasons to avoid processed foods scattered throughout each chapter. Of the ten listed in this section, which ones will have the most profound effect on your personal idea of healthy eating?
In a 250+ word response explain how happiness and stability in our moods comes from eating at the farmacy, which means eating whole food that nourishes us and builds the energy and focus we all need.

Assignment #9: New Information About Foods.

  • Read pages 122-151 to connect what you have learned about food, happiness and how to get started.  This section will help you demystify labels and all the tricks marketing can use to confuse you.
  • Check out the section on label decoding pages 144-148. What was new information for you and how can this help you get realistic information about what you are buying in the grocery store?
  • In the section on stocking and shopping your kitchen, discuss the personal improvements you can make in your diet or food choices. Let's create a motto to not waste any food in the coming year. 
  • The Top 100 reasons to avoid processed foods scattered throughout each chapter. Of the ten listed in this section, which ones will have the most profound effect on your personal idea of healthy eating?
In a 500+ word discussion address marketing, false adverstising, how you have been duped, what you need to know about labels and how to store food so that none is being wasted. Also address whether you need to buy organic, so that you are making the best choices at the store. 

Assignment #10: Controversy of Supplements

  • Read pages 222-234 about labels, quick fixes, the supplement industry, and your beliefs. 
  • What is the most important thing you learned about the controversy about supplements? 
  • What is your own opinion about multi-vitamins and supplements? Was there any new information that worries you as a concerned consumer?
  • What are your personal must have’s from this section? Has this changed your mind or reinforced what you already believed?

In a 250+ word response, discuss the learning on supplements and vitamins, where you now stand on this subject, and how you would like to move forward.



In this section, you will apply your learning to your professional situation. This course assumes that most participants are classroom teachers who have access to students. If you do not have a classroom available to you, please contact the instructor for course modifications. Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. ​Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 


Assignment #11: A Graphic Summary.

  • Create a graphic summary of the happiness diet. Define what Happiness is and how it works. Include EACH of the food groups to help you retain the learning and assist with incorporating into your diet.
  • It should be colorful, complete, and if you want to use in the classroom appropriate for hanging on a wall. You want to indicate the power of the food groups, or you could also create a poster around faulty thinking and how we have been misled.
  • This would be something that could be hung on your wall or made available to other teachers to show them willpower, self-control, and faulty thinking about food.
  • It must represent a final product. Graphics should be effective. Be sure to include a final statement 250+ words about happiness, your learning, and the connection between happiness, mental health, and food. 

Assignment #12: Journal Your Eating.

  • Check out the Happy Meal Plans: Two Weeks of Feel Good Menus.
  • Keep a journal for two weeks, tracking every meal if possible, including information on your snacks.
  • Then reflect on what you have learned by combining the research with your journal activity.
  • The reflection will be written after you have kept the journal for the two weeks.
  • I recommend highlighting the foods that are specifically found in the Happiness chapters, the FOUR food groups.

Assignment #13: Lesson Development.

Create a lesson that you can share with your students about the effects of sugar, soda pop, or French fries. 

Option A)

  • Adapt a lesson to reflect what you’ve learned in this course.
  • Implement your lesson with students in your classroom.
  • Write a 250-500 word commentary on what worked well and what could be improved.
  • Include any student feedback on your lesson.
  • Share what you’ve learned with other teachers taking our courses by also contributing your Lesson to The Heritage Institute Lesson Library here
  • You may download a copy of THI's lesson plan template here.

Option B)

Use this option if you do not have a classroom available.

  • Adapt a lesson to reflect what you’ve learned in this course. (Do not implement it.)
  • Share what you’ve learned with other teachers taking our courses by contributing your Lesson to The Heritage Institute Lesson Library here.
  • You may download a copy of THI's lesson plan template here.
  • Write a 500+ word article concerning any noteworthy success you’ve had as a teacher with one or more students.
  • Please refer to the guidelines on our blog What Works: Teaching at its Best prior to writing your article.
  • When you submit your article to your instructor, please also email a copy to Renee Leon THI blog curator and media specialist.
  • Indicate whether or not you are OK with having your article considered for publishing on our website.

Assignment #14: (500 Level ONLY)

In addition to the 400 level assignments, complete ONE(1) of the following assignment options:
Option A) 
Create a Happiness Diet journal to track your commitment to healthy eating and awareness of the mood foods you are consuming. You can purchase a journal or keep track online. For 15 days, include the food and drinks you consume. Please indicate foods from the Happiness Diet in a different color. Keep up this schedule as you care for your brain and work to improve your body and mind. Assess your eating and the balance with Happiness foods.
Option B)
Mentor another individual in the Happiness Diet and the health/brain benefits.  Have them share two or three key concepts that they would like to implement within their work or social setting. Share specifics of the plan and how it will be evaluated for success in 500-1000 words.
Option C)
Another assignment of your own design with prior approval of the instructor.


Assignment #15: (Required for 400 and 500 level)

(Please do not write this paper until you've completed all of your other assignments)

Write a 400-500 word Integration Paper answering these 5 questions:

  1. What did you learn vs. what you expected to learn from this course?
  2. What aspects of the course were most helpful and why?
  3. What further knowledge and skills in this general area do you feel you need?
  4. How, when and where will you use what you have learned?
  5. How and with what other school or community members might you share what you learned?


Instructors will comment on each assignment. If you do not hear from the instructor within a few days of posting your assignment, please get in touch with them immediately.


Brenda McKinney, CEO of Vancouver, WA based BrainVolution, is a developer and dynamic facilitator of workshops that teach practical thinking and learning tools for raising student achievement with the brain in mind. She has trained educators throughout the Pacific Northwest and is a popular presenter because of her ability to motivate, make things fun, and teach practical techniques for the classroom that can be used immediately. Brenda continues to read hundreds of books and articles on the subject of neuroscience and searches for the answer to success for every student. Her work with at-risk students and those with reading problems have made her a popular speaker at the state, regional and national level.

Brenda is able to synthesize the new research and continues to address the role of how to use the latest findings to create high achievement classroom. She brings 30+ years of experience at the elementary, middle school, high school and university level as a mentor teacher, consultant, motivational speaker, university instructor, and reading specialist. Brenda has her Master’s in Education from Washington State University and is nationally certified in Brain Based Learning through the renowned  Jensen Corporation, led by Eric Jensen, a noted international spokesperson for neuroscience and education.


Brenda will inspire and motivate you with her energy, enthusiasm and knowledge. Her wisdom, techniques, and brain based approach to education will inspire you and challenge you to meet the demands of this ever changing world.



HAPPINESS DIET: Energize Your Brain & Body

Amen, Daniel G. Use Your Brain to Change Your Age. Secrets to Look, Feel, and Think Younger Every Day. Crown Books. 2012. ISBN: 978-0-307-88854-9.
Dr. Amen’s breakthrough, easy-to-follow anti-aging program shows you how to: Boost your memory, mood, and attention, how to have more energy and decrease your risk for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. He will provide ideas for diet and how to eat to live longer while reducing the outward signs of aging.
Blaylock, Richard. Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. Health Press. 1997. ISBN: 0- 929173-14-7. Citing over five hundred scientific studies, Excitotoxins explores the dangers of aspartame, MSG, and other substances added to our food. This is an electrifying and important book that should be available to every American consumer.
Graham, Tyler & Drew Ramsey. The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean Energized Body. Rodale Books. 2011. ISBN: 978-1-60529-327-1. Required Text. Using the latest research from the rapidly changing world of neuroscience and nutrition, The Happiness Diet shows that shifts in our diet have stripped the nutrients from our food; nutrients that are critical for happy, well-balanced brains. These changes also explain why many people are predisposed to excessive weight gain. The book provides foods to avoid, brain-building recipes, and practical advice. Best of all it tells us how to reclaim our waistline and improve our brains at the same time. In the world of madness with books that tell you they have the fix-all diet plan, The Happiness Diet, provides insightful, eye-opening real information about FOOD and getting healthy.
Logan, Alan. The Brain Diet. Cumberland House Publishing. 2007. ISBN: 978-1-58182-600-5. The Brain Diet explains the connection between diet and mental health, as well as its importance for realizing the full potential of our intelligence. It shows how poor nutrition hinders the development of our children's intelligence and how it adversely affects mental health and success.
Maccaro, Janet. Brain Boosting Foods: 50 ways to improve your Memory, Unclutter your Mind, and Get your Brain Working at its Highest Capacity by Eating Right. 2010. New York. Excel Books. ISBN: 978-1-59979-225-5. Davidson has discovered that personality is composed of six basic emotional "styles," including resilience, self-awareness, and attention. Our emotional fingerprint results from where on the continuum of each style we fall. He explains the brain chemistry that underlies each style in order to give us a new model of the emotional brain, one that will even go so far as to affect the way we treat conditions like autism and depression. And, finally, he provides strategies we can use to change our own brains and emotions-if that is what we want to do.
May, Michelle. Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. Greenleaf Book Group. 2010. ISBN: 978-1-60832-003-5.
With uncommon sense and a powerful mind-body approach to healthy living, Dr. May helps you rediscover when, what, and how much to eat without restrictive rules. You'll learn the truth about nutrition and how to stop using exercise to earn the right to eat. You'll finally experience the pleasure of eating the foods you love--without guilt or binging.
Schmidt, Michael. Brain-Building Nutrition: How Dietary Fats and Oils Affect Mental, Physical, and Emotional Intelligence. Berkley, CA. Frog Books. 2007.  
ISBN: 978-1-58394-1818-2. In this new, updated edition of the classic book on brain performance and nutrition, Dr. Michael A. Schmidt provides a host of practical dietary information and new, ground-breaking research to support his findings.  The author helps the reader distinguish between harmful and beneficial fats and oils, and warns the "French Fry Generation" of the dangers of a poor diet. The effects of nutrition on mood, memory and behavior are explained by a number of compelling case studies. Finally, the author presents various strategies for enhancing mental, physical and emotional intelligence.
Wenk, Gary. Your Brain on Food. Oxford University Press. 2010. ISBN: 978-0-19-538854-1. In this book, Gary Wenk demonstrates how, as a result of their effects on certain neurotransmitters concerned with behavior, everything we put into our bodies has very direct consequences for how we think, feel, and act. The chapters introduce each of the main neurotransmitters involved with behavior, discuss its role in the brain, present some background on how it is generally turned on and off, and explain ways to influence it through what we consume.