Among adolescents, overweight, obesity and metabolic syndrome are rapidly increasing in recent years as a consequence of unhealthy palatable diets. Animal models of diet-induced obesity have been developed, but little is known about the behavioural patterns produced by the consumption of such diets. The aim of the present study was to determine the behavioural and biochemical effects of a cafeteria diet fed to juvenile male and female rats, as well as to evaluate the possible recovery from these effects by administering standard feeding during the last week of the study. Two groups of male and female rats were fed with either a standard chow diet (ST) or a cafeteria (CAF) diet from weaning and for 8 weeks. A third group of males (CAF withdrawal) was fed with the CAF diet for 7 weeks and the ST in the 8th week. Both males and females developed metabolic syndrome as a consequence of the CAF feeding, showing overweight, higher adiposity and liver weight, increased plasma levels of glucose, insulin and triglycerides, as well as insulin resistance, in comparison with their respective controls. The CAF diet reduced motor activity in all behavioural tests, enhanced exploration, reduced anxiety-like behaviour and increased social interaction; this last effect was more pronounced in females than in males. When compared to animals only fed with a CAF diet, CAF withdrawal increased anxiety in the open field, slightly decreased body weight, and completely recovered the liver weight, insulin sensitivity and the standard levels of glucose, insulin and triglycerides in plasma. In conclusion, a CAF diet fed to young animals for 8 weeks induced obesity and metabolic syndrome, and produced robust behavioural changes in young adult rats, whereas CAF withdrawal in the last week modestly increased anxiety, reversed the metabolic alterations and partially reduced overweight. © 2014 Lalanza et al.