An adverse intrauterine environment is associated with an increased risk of elevated blood pressure and kidney disease in later life. Many studies have focused on low birth weight, prematurity and growth restriction as surrogate markers of an adverse intrauterine environment; however, high birth weight, exposure to maternal diabetes and rapid growth during early childhood are also emerging as developmental risk factors for chronic diseases. Altered programming of nephron number is an important link between exposure to developmental stressors and subsequent risk of hypertension and kidney disease. Maternal, fetal, and childhood nutrition are crucial contributors to these programming effects. Resource-poor countries experience the sequential burdens of fetal and childhood undernutrition and subsequent overnutrition, which synergistically act to augment the effects of developmental programming; this observation might explain in part the disproportionate burden of chronic disease in these regions. Numerous nutritional interventions have been effective in reducing the short-term risk of low birth weight and prematurity. Understanding the potential long-term benefits of such interventions is crucial to inform policy decisions to interrupt the developmental programming cycle and stem the growing epidemics of hypertension and kidney disease worldwide.