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Abstract Background To consider the changes in overall diet quality following migration we examined the associations of acculturation variables and education level with diet in Surinamese South Asian and Surinamese Afro-Caribbean origin on the one hand, and ethnic Dutch residents of the Netherlands on the other. Surinam is a former Dutch colony in South America. Methods We randomly selected men and women aged 35–60 years: ethnic Dutch, n = 552; South Asian, n = 306; Afro-Caribbean, n = 660. Intakes of fruit, vegetables, red meat, fish, vegetable oils, breakfast and salt were measured using a short questionnaire that formed the basis for a ‘diet quality indicator’ score. Highest education was measured and acculturation of the Surinamese groups was assessed by age at migration, number of resident years and a scale measure of social contacts with ethnic Dutch. Results Compared with ethnic Dutch, both Surinamese groups scored higher on overall diet quality (P ≤ 0.001) but some aspects of diet (breakfast and salt use) were less prudent. Education was positively associated with diet quality in ethnic Dutch (P ≤ 0.01), but not consistently so in Surinamese. Associations with social contact with ethnic Dutch varied for different quality aspects of the diet. Residence duration (mean = 22 years) and age at migration (mean = 21 years) were not associated with diet. Conclusions A greater degree of acculturation does not necessarily lead to a less healthful diet in migrants. In addition, the association of education level with diet may differ for migrant groups. The diet of migrants differ from host populations, suggesting that migrant groups should be considered in the development of nutrition health promotion activities.