It is comforting to see a company so in control of its future that the word "healthy" comes to mind. If there ever were a company that fit that description to a T, it is Whole FoodsMarket (NASDAQ:WFMI).

I shop at Whole Foods Market quite often, and the experience never fails to get me in that California state of mind. (Sorry, Billy Joel, the "New York State of Mind" usually hits me when I think of walking through Battery Park and viewing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with my eyes wide open.)

It's rare for me to have such confidence in a retailer both in the store and as an investor. The other specialty food retailer that I like is privately held Trader Joe's, where the food is creative and healthy, and upbeat people in Hawaiian shirts cater to your every need. With companies such as Wild Oats (NASDAQ:OATS), Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's attracting so much healthy attention, it's no wonder that supermarket chains such as Kroger (NYSE:KR) and Albertsons (NYSE:ABS) have dedicated more shelf space to health food alternatives.

Whole Foods reported fourth-quarter earnings yesterday of $0.46 per share, which was in line with the analysts' consensus estimate and 21% ahead of last year's earnings of $0.38 per share. The company also raised its quarterly dividend 27% to $0.19 per share, pushing its dividend yield to a respectable 0.86%.

On the sales side, the company produced a 24% increase in the fourth quarter that was 1.2% ahead of expectations. Same-store sales were up 14% (with a 27% return on investment) and were broken down as follows: In the 13 stores open less than two years, sales were up 26% with a 16% return on investment, and in the 67 stores open at least eight years, sales were up 12% with an impressive 54% return on investment.

The company has a long-term goal of $10 billion of sales by 2010, which translates into an annualized compounded sales growth rate of 26%. With an aggressive store expansion strategy (15 to 18 stores to be added in fiscal 2005) and a solid in-store concept, Whole Foods expects sales growth of 15% to 20% and same-store sales growth of 8% to 10% in fiscal 2005.

I see Whole Foods as a leader in an attractive industry that is still growing rapidly; as the store base matures, the company's margins and earnings should continue to improve. Over the past year, the shares have risen 51% but are 9% off their 52-week high of $96.74. If you're looking to invest in a leading company (with decent cash flow) in a growing industry, Whole Foods would be a healthy choice.

You don't have to eat seaweed to be healthy, but reading these other Takes could improve your financial health:

Fool contributor Phil Wohl spent more than 12 years on Wall Street and works on the mind-body balance every day.