A growing body of evidence from Western countries shows that the presence of children in households is associated with the dietary intake of adults, but little is known about this relationship in non-Western countries with different food cultures. Our aim was to examine whether dietary intake was different with respect to the presence of young children in the home among Japanese married women. Subjects were Japanese married women (aged 23–44 years) living with children aged less than 5 years (n 73) and married women who did not have children (n 85). Data regarding habitual dietary intake were obtained using a validated, self-administered diet history questionnaire. A cross-sectional comparison between women with young children and women without children was conducted using ANCOVA adjusted for potential confounding factors. Women with young children had a significantly greater intake of protein, carbohydrates, Na, Zn and Cu than did women without children. Intake of cereals, pulses and sugar was significantly higher among mothers than among non-mothers. Intake of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages was significantly higher among non-mothers than among mothers. Thus, the presence of young children at home might influence women's intake of macronutrients and some minerals, especially Na, and beverages among Japanese married women. Our findings suggest that effective dietary interventions among Japanese mothers with young children may differ from those of married women without children.