Nutritional and metabolic cues are integral to animal development. Organisms use them both as sustenance and environmental indicators, fueling, informing and influencing developmental decisions. Classical examples, such as the Warburg effect, clearly illustrate how genetic programs control metabolic changes. However, the way that nutrition and metabolism can also modulate or drive genetic programs to instruct developmental trajectories is much more elusive, owing to several difficulties including uncoupling permissive and instructive functions. Here, we discuss recent advancements in the field that highlight the developmental role of nutritional and metabolic cues across multiple levels of organismal complexity.