Abstract Objectives To describe the diet of schoolchildren aged 7 years, and identify gender differences in food and nutrient intakes. Subjects A cohort of children resident in the south-west of England in 1999/2000. Methods Diet was assessed using three 1-day unweighed food diaries. Nutrient intakes were compared with dietary reference values for this age group, and with children aged 7–10 years in the British National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Food and nutrient intakes were contrasted between boys and girls. Results Median nutrient intakes exceeded the reference nutrient intake (RNI) for most nutrients. Median intakes of iron and zinc were below the RNI. Median sodium intake was greater than the maximum set by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. The mean energy intake for boys and girls, respectively, were 7.3 and 6.8 MJ, this is below the estimated average requirement. The percentage of energy from fat was 35.3% for boys and 36.1% for girls. Boys had higher iron intakes than girls, even after adjustment for energy intake. There were differences in the types of foods eaten between boys and girls; girls ate more fruit and vegetables (P = 0.001) and boys ate more breakfast cereals (P = 0.016). Conclusions The dietary intakes of these 7-year-old children were adequate for most nutrients. However, a reduction in the sodium content of the diet would be advantageous. Fruit and vegetable consumption should be encouraged particularly among boys.