Katie Leclerc is mostly vegetarian as Daphne on "Switched at Birth," which returns to ABC Family with new episodes Jan. 7, and she's been heading in that direction off screen as well. "I eat very little red meat, no pork for about a year and a half now," she says, adding that she's also investigating a gluten-free diet after seeing how it helped her nine-year-old nephew. The boy is "borderline Asperger's," and after eating gluten-free and dairy-free for a week, he was able to hold a phone conversation with her for the first time. "It helped with his focus and attention. I was elated."

Leclerc and her boyfriend Ryan recently adopted a deaf dog, though they weren't aware of that until they brought him home and he wasn't responding to them or other dogs. For Leclerc, who has partial hearing loss and plays a deaf character on "Switched," that wasn't a problem. "We taught him sign language, signs for lie down, get the ball, eat, water. He knows about 20 signs now," she reports, calling the one and a half year-old Australian cattle dog, named Gus, "our pride and joy."

On "Switched," her character Daphne is broken up over a break-up with Chef Jeff (Justin Bruening). "She lost herself in him and she had to gain her footing again and regain her independence," and a fully stocked food truck, a gift from suddenly rich Angelo (Gilles Marini) will help her do that. Her sort-of sister Bay (Vanessa Marano) is now going to the deaf school, Carlton, "but the deaf people are very prejudiced against her. She has to prove herself and it's challenging for her."

Last year, Leclerc made a Hallmark Channel movie during her hiatus called "Beverly Lewis' The Confession," a sequel to "The Shunning," in which she plays an Amish woman who has left that community and seeks to track down her birth mother (Sherri Stringfield). "There's three different accents that [my character] has and it was really hard at first to get them down. It was very challenging, but different identities within a character is always fun." It will premiere May 11.

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Katie Leclerc changes her diet, adopts deaf dog
Katie Leclerc's character gets a food truck on 'Switched at Birth.'