A number of studies have reported the occurrence of long-term metabolic disorders in mammals following intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR). However, the effects of dietary patterns during IUGR have not been fully elucidated. The present study aimed to evaluate the effects of different dietary patterns during critical growth windows on metabolic outcomes in the offspring of rats with IUGR. Male offspring rats from mothers fed either a normal or low-protein diet were randomly assigned to one of the following groups: Normal diet throughout pregnancy, lactation and after weaning (CON); normal diet throughout pregnancy and high-fat diet throughout lactation and after weaning (N + H + H); low-protein diet throughout pregnancy and high-fat diet throughout lactation and after weaning (IUGR + H + H); low-protein diet throughout pregnancy and lactation and high-fat diet after weaning (IUGR + L + H); and low-protein diet throughout pregnancy and normal diet throughout lactation and after weaning. During lactation, the male offspring in the N + H + H group exhibited the fastest growth rate, whereas the slowest rate was in the IUGR + L + H group. Following weaning, all IUGR groups demonstrated significant catch-up growth. Abnormal insulin tolerance were observed in the N + H + H, IUGR + H + H and IUGR + L + H groups and insulin sensitivity was decreased in IUGR + L + H group. The triglycerides/high-density lipoprotein ratio in the IUGR + L + H group was significantly higher compared with in the other groups. The abdominal circumference, Lee's index and adipocyte diameter of IUGR groups were significantly increased compared with the CON group. High levels of leptin and interleukin-6 in adipose tissues, and low adiponectin were observed in the IUGR + L + H group. Different dietary patterns during specific growth windows showed numerous impacts on glycolipid metabolism in IUGR offspring. The present study elucidated the mechanisms and potential options for IUGR treatment and prevention.