If you've put on weight this year, you're not alone.
Comfort eating has become a hard habit to break.
"Depressing" is how chef Peter Blakeway describes the queues outside fast-food chains when we emerged from lockdown.
"I just found that astonishing," he says, adding the hunger for Uber Eats was equally sad.
"Not only have we become so lazy that we go for food of questionable nutrition and value, but then we'll get someone else to pick it up for us."
Comfort eating has led to, according to one survey, a big toll on Kiwi diets.
The Covid Kai Survey of 3028 people ran from April 24 to May 13 when New Zealand was at alert levels 3 and 4.
Results of the online survey by the University of Auckland suggest the Government should put more emphasis on nutrition during any future lockdowns, and on how to prepare home-cooked meals.
Two-out-of-three people increased their score on an unhealthy diet measure with sweet and salty snacks, alcohol and sugary drinks.
Dr Sarah Gerritsen, of the School of Population Health in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, said: "With the restaurants, fast-food chains and takeaway outlets closed, we wondered if more home-cooked meals would result in healthier eating over the lockdown. But independent grocers and fruit and vegetable stores were also closed which may have limited options for buying healthy food."
The survey was part of an international study across 38 countries led by researchers at the University of Antwerp in Belgium.
Research shows that time at home, boredom, and heightened stress led to more snacking.
However, it was also a stressful time, and stress is linked to poorer eating decisions.
"We need to show compassion to ourselves and others when thinking about comfort eating, as it's clear from research that shame and stigma make it worse," says Dr Gerritsen, who adds that community advocates who "stepped up" should be funded and scaled up quickly again, in future crises.
Blakeway, an English-born Michelin-star chef and author who's appeared on television and tutors at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, said New Zealanders were strained under severe challenges; we were at the end of our edible garden season in March, and some felt safer eating packaged foods.
But, it also highlights a bigger problem, and that's "quite frankly" a lot of Kiwis can't cook.
And, while some of us baked, he guesses ovens have gone cold.
"The number of sourdough starters around New Zealand that have promptly died is quite astonishing."
We're time-poor, he says, have greater choice, and perceive takeout to be cheaper.
"As a chef, that's a real shame, although to be fair, it's also an opportunity."
He explains there's a high demand for qualified chefs as food-borne illnesses grow globally, and education around food hygiene becomes more crucial.
Go back a couple of generations, and everyone was related to a farmer and managed their own food. Now, more people live in cities.
"We don't grow food the way we used to, or preserve it, even though we have a better advantage today with freezers, yet we use them less."
He says we have generations that get their flavour from processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt.
"We went through a time [after the 1960s] where our intermediate and high schools didn't teach cooking effectively, and that crosses the same time period that supermarkets and processed foods were developing massively, and then the development of the fast-food joints right around the country. A perfect storm happened at once."
Nowadays, schools have initiatives like the Garden to Table programme and there's a "huge amount of hope" for future generations, but we've left a couple of generations "sitting on the shelf".
People that are efficient home cooks, benefit by cooking with food that's in season (and therefore cheaper), skilfully modifying recipes all year round to suit.
Further international research shows they have healthier eating patterns, spend less money on takeaway foods and have indicators of better health. Sharing meals with others is also associated with greater feelings of happiness.
Blakeway's advice for those who feel helpless in the kitchen is to remember there's "no such thing as wrong in the kitchen".
"If it doesn't work, it's 'just don't do it again'. All food throughout history has been experimentation and use of what's available here and now.
"A bowl full of cauliflower will not necessarily be exciting, but you'd get a meal out of it, and the more you practise, and the more you play, and the more you experiment, the better you'll get.
"This attitude that 'I can't cook' just doesn't exist. You haven't tried."
How to get started
One woman on a mission to get Kiwis cooking is Linda Duncan.
The Taupō mum and accountant released her first book The World's Easiest Recipes in 2018, released volume two last month
, and has plans for volume three.
Cooking a meal to share can be a daunting task, but Duncan uses pantry staples like tomato relish, mint, Worcester and soy sauces, so stress and cost are not an issue.
Enough to "jazz up some chops or chicken before you throw them in the oven, to add flavour and variety", she says.
All of her recipes require 15 minutes or less of hands-on prep time.
"It's really good for people who have the excuse 'I haven't got time to cook'."
During level 4 lockdown she made her first cookbook available for free download, saying a lot of people took advantage of it, but more people still opted for baking instead of cooking.
"A lot of people don't cook, period. I come across people all the time who say 'I don't cook' and I think 'Well, how do you eat'?" she says, sharing that most tell her they go to the supermarket deli after work, or get takeaways three to four nights a week.
"I think a) how do you afford that? and b) Do you realise just how bad that is for you?"
Duncan says she decided to take up cookbook writing after being a working mum whose biggest bugbear every night was 'what are we are going to have for dinner that's easy and affordable?'"
She had a pile of cookbooks she didn't use because they required ingredients that she never had.
Her wholesome recipes are a mix of tried-and-true classics, and others she's simplified from other recipes, or made up herself.
She also skips on the "long-winded method".
"You don't have to read a whole novel just to get the gist of what the recipes are about. Just really, basic steps."
Improving your health is also about giving things a go, says registered dietitian Cati Pearson of Rotorua's Feed Your Fuel.
She says if the Government was to do anything to improve nutrition during another lockdown, they should target support at high-poverty areas.
She agrees "not everyone knows how to cook home-cooked meals", and popular subscription food boxes are great for convenience but are not in everyone's price range.
What's more, you can help your diet by simply upping your daily water intake, which helps with food cravings, digestion and your portion size.
"It's a really easy way to alter habits without saying you can or cannot have X, Y and Z.
"Your body is made up of 70 per cent water and if you're not replacing that your body can't work to the best of its ability in any aspect."
If you feel stuck with your food choices, a dietitian can help increase accountability and provide ideas for keeping yourself goal-focused.
And take heart from Linda Duncan who says anyone can conquer the kitchen without needing to whip up a sous vide lamb or chicken milanese napolitana.
Of her first cookbook, she says: "My husband who couldn't even boil an egg, can make every recipe."
Cooking made easy
The trick is knowing how to throw a few basic cupboard ingredients together.
Combine sweet chilli sauce, mint sauce, honey, and garlic, and pour over lamb chops before cooking to make a "restaurant quality" meal.
For dessert, stir melted caramel chocolate through whipped cream.
Or, how about making a loaf of bread that requires no kneading. Just mix the ingredients, tip into a loaf tin and allow to rise before cooking.
For recipes visit: www.twer.co.nz Linda Duncan's second book The World's Easiest Recipes Volume 2, is out now ($29.95).