The purpose of the present study was to determine the dietary predictors of visceral adipose tissue (VAT) area in overweight young adults. A total of 109 young adults (fifty males and fifty-nine females) ate ad libitum in a university cafeteria for 14 d. All food and beverages consumed in the cafeteria were measured using observer-recorded weighed plate waste. Food consumption outside the cafeteria (i.e. snacks) was assessed by multiple-pass 24 h recall procedures. VAT was determined using computed tomography. Stepwise regression demonstrated that the best predictor of visceral adiposity in women was total dietary fat (P ≤ 0·05). In men, the model for predicting visceral adiposity included Ca and total dietary fat. We concluded that total dietary fat is the best predictor of VAT area in both men and women. While this relationship was independent in women, in men there was a synergistic relationship between dietary fat consumption and Ca consumption in predicting VAT.