Abstract We studied the effects of maternal high fat diet (HFD, 25% calories from fat administered before and during pregnancy and lactation) and dietary intervention (switching dams from HFD to control diet) at different periconceptional periods on male offspring anxiety related behavior, exploration, learning, and motivation. From weaning at postnatal day (PND) 21, female subjects produced to be the mothers in the study received either control diet (CTR – 5% calories from fat), HFD through pregnancy and lactation (MO), HFD during PNDs 21–90 followed by CTR diet (pre-gestation (PG) intervention) or HFD from PND 21 to 120 followed by CTR diet (gestation and lactation (G) intervention) and bred at PND 120. At 19 days of gestation maternal serum corticosterone was increased in MO and the PG and G dams showed partial recovery with intermediate levels. In offspring, no effects were found in the elevated plus maze test. In the open field test, MO and G offspring showed increase zone entries, displaying less thigmotaxis; PG offspring showed partial recuperation of this behavior. During initial operant conditioning MO, PG and G offspring displayed decreased approach behavior with subsequent learning impairment during the acquisition of FR-1 and FR-5 operant conditioning for sucrose reinforcement. Motivation during the progressive ratio test increased in MO offspring; PG and G intervention recuperated this behavior. We conclude that dietary intervention can reverse negative effects of maternal HFD and offspring outcomes are potentially due to elevated maternal corticosterone.