The second German National Nutrition Survey (NVS II) aimed to evaluate food consumption and other aspects of nutritional behaviour of a representative sample of the German population, using a modular design with three different dietary assessment methods. To assess usual food consumption, 15 371 German speaking subjects 14–80 years of age completed a diet history interview between November 2005 and November 2006. With reference to the guidelines of the German Nutrition Society (DGE), NVS II observed that the German population did not eat enough foods of plant origin, especially vegetables and consumed too much of meat and meat products. While generally similar food consumption is observed in other European countries, consumption of bread, fruit juices/nectars and beer is higher in Germany. On average, men consumed two times more meat and soft drinks as well as six times more beer than women did, whereas the consumption of vegetables, fruit as well as herbal/fruit tea was higher in women. Older participants showed a lower consumption of meat, fruit juice/nectars, soft drinks and spirits as well as a higher consumption of fish, vegetables, fruit, and herbal/fruit tea than adolescents and younger adults did. There are also differences in food consumption with regard to socio-economic status (SES). Persons with higher SES consumed more vegetables, fruit, fish, water, coffee/tea and wine, while persons with lower SES consumed more meat and meat products, soft drinks and beer. In general, the food consumption of women, the elderly and the higher SES group tends to be closer to the official dietary guidelines in Germany.