In the UK, South Asian adults have increased risks of CHD, type 2 diabetes and central obesity. Black African-Caribbeans, in contrast, have increased risks of type 2 diabetes and general obesity but lower CHD risk. There is growing evidence that these risk differences emerge in early life and that nutritional factors may be important. We have therefore examined the variations in nutritional composition of the diets of South Asian, black African-Caribbean and white European children, using 24 h recalls of dietary intake collected during a cross-sectional survey of cardiovascular health in eighty-five primary schools in London, Birmingham and Leicester. In all, 2209 children aged 9-10 years took part, including 558 of South Asian, 560 of black African-Caribbean and 543 of white European ethnicity. Compared with white Europeans, South Asian children reported higher mean total energy intake; their intakes of total fat, polyunsaturated fat and protein (both absolute and as proportions of total energy intake) were higher and their intakes of carbohydrate as a proportion of energy (particularly sugars), vitamin C and D, Ca and haem Fe were lower. These differences were especially marked for Bangladeshi children. Black African-Caribbean children had lower intakes of total and saturated fat (both absolute and as proportions of energy intake), NSP, vitamin D and Ca. The lower total and saturated fat intakes were particularly marked among black African children. Appreciable ethnic differences exist in the nutritional composition of children's diets, which may contribute to future differences in chronic disease risk.